Monday, August 29, 2011

LudoBites 7.0

At 4:02pm on July 14th, I realized that the reservation line (via OpenTable) was open for LudoBites 7.0. I clicked on the website and picked a random day and time only to be informed that the day was not available. I clicked on several more days only to find they were all unavailable. I logged in to Twitter and saw many people with the same results. The entire six week run of the pop-up sold out in THIRTY SECONDS. Luckily, I have friends (Marion Campbell Kammer) with faster fingers than me, so a few minutes later, I was informed that we scored a table for August 26th at 9pm. WINNING!! 

LudoBites 7.0

For those not familiar, LudoBites is a traveling pop-up restaurant that originated in LA. This past winter, chef Ludo Lefebvre took his concept on the road and filmed a Sundance Channel show called LudoBites America. Many of the dishes on the current menu reflected Ludo's recent travels. With my bottle of Clos du Tue-Boeuf Cheverny (Thanks Jill) in hand, I made my way to Gram & Papas in downtown LA for our dining adventure.

We wanted to try everything on the menu and still have everyone taste everything. For us, it meant we had two orders (and sometimes three) of everything on the menu. First up was the Bouillabaise Milkshake ($10). The first sip is kind of shocking because of the frozen, fishy nature of the soup. But it got better with subsequent sips.

Bouillabaise Milkshake

The Onion Tart with Bottarga ($10) has a light crisp crust and tons of sweet caramelized onions. The bottarga added a nice salty contrast to the sweet onions.

Onion Tart, Bottarga

Jamaican Fried Chicken ($10) comes with latex gloves to alleviate the mess. They're pan fried and full of flavor. We ended up getting an extra order of these because they were so good.

Jamaican Fried Chicken

Raw Beef, Rainbow carrots, Shallots, Red Wine Mayo ($15). I loved the fresh flavors in this dish and I especially enjoyed the mustard-y mayo under the beef.

Raw Beed, Rainbow carrots, Shallots, Red Wne Mayo

Squid, Ash Chorizo ($12). This was one of our early favorites. The squid is perfectly cooked and the ash lent a hint of saltiness. This was also the dish that you had to be careful eating because that black ink stains!!

Squid, Ash, Chorizo

Prawn & Scallop Ceviche, Aji Amarillo, Red Berries ($28). Bright and fresh (unlike the picture). Berries are at their peak and added a nice contrast to the citrus in the marinade. There is also a slight spice from the jalapenos and nice crunch from the corn nuts that were the garnish.

Prawn & Scallop Ceviche, Aji Amarillo, Red Berries

Pig's Head Compressed and Cheddar, Barbeque Gelee ($14). I was really excited about this dish and with good reason. I think it was influenced by Ludo's trip to Raleigh, NC where he sampled various barbeque restaurants. The pig's face was not too fatty and nicely salty and paired well with the cheddar sauce and barbeque gelee.

Pig's Head Compressed and Cheddar, Barbeque Gelee

Salt Cod Panna Cotta, Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca ($12) was unlike any panna cotta I have ever eaten. It was so light and not gelatinous at all. Kind of like eating salt cod flavored whipped cream. The smoked tapioca was perfectly chewy and the crispy croutons were great for cutting through the creaminess.

Salt Cod Panna Cotta, Whipped Fingerling Potato, Smoked Tapioca

Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc ($18) had a texture similar to the savory oatmeal I had last year at the now shuttered Bistro LQ. It was creamy and rich, but not overly heavy.

Egg, Sea Urchin, Caviar, Champagne Beurre Blanc

Plancha Tandoori Octopus, Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit ($18) was incredible. I have never had octopus that tender and melt in your mouth. Their is a punch from the tandoori spices and the thinly shaved cauliflower provided a subtle crunch.

Plancha Tandoori Octopus, Yogurt, Cauliflower, Grapefruit

Foie Gras "French Dim Sum", Crispy Kimchi, Black Truffle Cream ($28) was basically Foie Gras pasta with wonton wrappers as the pasta. It was rich and creamy and so smooth. If the kimchi was in there, I didn't taste it much, but I really didn't mind with the rich flavors of the pasta.

Foie Gras "French Dim Sum", Crispy Kimchi, Black Truffle Cream

Salt Crust Pork Shoulder, Guiness Sabayon, Imaginary Charcroute, Green Cabbage, Curry ($25). Unfortunately this was the least favorite dish of the evening with some people thinking the pork was undercooked (I don't mind a little pinkness)

Salt Crust Pork Shoulder, Guiness Sabayon, Imaginary Choucroute, Green Cabbage, Curry

Duck, Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish ($22). This was phenomenal. The duck was perfectly cooked and the cherry sauce was a great pairing. The spicy saucisse had a nice crust on the outside and the sweet beets were fresh and crunchy and great with the sweet and tart sauce.

Duck, Cherry, Spicy Saucisse, Beets, Radish

Epoisse Cheese Risotto, Hazelnut, Egg Yolk, Herb Salad ($18). Our last savory dish just happened to be my favorite. Epoisse is commonly known as the "stinky" cheese, but there was nothing stinky about this dish. This was the best risotto I have ever had. It was creamy and nutty and had crunch from the hazelnuts. The egg made it even more rich, but the herb salad made it feel fresh. Even though I was sharing with three other people, I know I consumed the lion's share of this dish. I probably would have ordered an extra one, but we still had desserts to tackle.

Epoisse Cheese Risotto, Hazelnut, Egg Yolk, Herb Salad

Lavender Tropezienne Tart, Aloe Vera, Strawberry ($10). The previous weeks of LudoBites had a crust-less lemon tart. Many simple seemed to miss the contrast of crust with the tart lemon filling so I guess this was the replacement. It was fine and of course I love lemon lavender and lemon, but I thought this was a little bland.

Lavender Tropezienne Tart, Aloe Vera, Strawberry

I'm very particular about the combination of chocolate and fruit. Pretty much the only one I approve of is chocolate and strawberry so the Chocolate Cake, Chipotle, Orange ($12) was not my favorite, but I did appreciate the richness of the chocolate cake and spiciness of chipotle. One of my favorite things about Ludo's desserts is that they aren't aggressively sweet and this was a perfect example of that.

Chocolate Cake, Chipotle, Orange

As a gift from the chef, we were treated to a bacon Creme Brulee. Creme brulee is my all time favorite dessert and this was a treat! It was salty and and sweet and the bruleed sugar topping was perfectly crunchy. Despite my fullness, I finished the entire thing and it was the most perfect way to end the evening.

Bacon Creme Brulee

Ludo's food is always fun and exciting and I'm terribly lucky to have experienced it again after my first time last year. This run goes through September 10th and while it's still sold out, there are always last minute cancellations which you can keep track of via Krissy's Twitter feed. I can't wait to see what Ludo comes up with next!

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Amanda said...

wow! Looks fantastic!

marla said...

Lucky you to score that reservation! I have never been there but must some day. That soup sounds unique indeed.

Erica said...

What a unique spot! The onion tart looks fantaatic

susan said...

omg, Esi - you did eat everyting on that menu. I would gobble up that fried chicken. I need to get me some Ludo - Next time around - I am craashing your party!

The Wind Attack said...

All I'm saying, is I'm glad the submarine sandwich "wine sleeve" is still a thing. Love it!

Banana Wonder said...

Wow, you did some work! I would have liked the egg yolk-hazelnut risotto as well.

Joanne said...

I love seeing what pop-ups serve cause it's always so fun and chic!

vanillasugarblog said...

bacon creme brulee. oh girl for real? i mean wow. you were very lucky to get a spot there for sure.
i wish more places would serve the latex gloves with any kind of wings.

LetMeEatCake Eat With Me! said...

i still have never been to a ludo bites! arg and they always look so good what is wrong with me! next time can i be your date :)

Georgia Pellegrini said...

I'm enamored of this idea... pop up restaurants around the country just roaming like a traveling salesman who makes delicious treats. We need more of it. I bet we see more of it too!

Nancy said...

Oh my goodness... the variety of dishes is amazing!! I don't know if I could get through all of those but each one is so tempting I think I would have to!!